The striking match up between these two is very interesting: power versus speed. While Johnson has the edge in movement, and is the more evasive fighter, I see him having a hard time with the power and technique of Benavidez. Johnson may have the quicker feet, however that speed is less of an advantage at the lighter weight classes. Benavidez will connect and he hits hard with hands, elbows and shins. I see Benavidez’s power as a major tool that he’ll utilize to control the pace of the fight, forcing Johnson out of his game plan. While Johnson’s footwork usually works towards his advantage, he has a tendency to get sucked into standing and trading and all Benavidez needs is to land one clean shot to put you down. Benavidez has the advantage standing up.
I see Benavidez with a clear advantage on the grappling side of things, as well. While “Mighty Mouse” has good offensive wrestling, he’s been way less successful at stopping takedowns in the past. “Uncle Creepy” Ian McCall was able to get Johnson down seven times throughout their second fight (Stats courtesy of BleacherReport). Brad Pickett was able to beat Johnson by relying heavily on his wrestling as well. Benavidez was a high school state wrestling champ, and has been able to seamlessly mix that into his MMA game. He actively uses his wrestling to set up both strikes and submissions, particularly through a dominating top game. Even though “Mighty Mouse” has an endless gas tank, trying to outwrestle Benavidez will not bode well for Johnson.
Speaking off submissions, both have the skills necessary to tap out their opponent. While Johnson has not submitted anyone since he fought Damacio Page nearly two years ago, he certainly has all the skills and techniques to do so. In fact, neither man has been submitted in his professional career. Benavidez certainly has more physical strength behind his submissions, at that Team Alpha Male guillotine is one thing Johnson cannot afford to overlook. I’m interested in seeing how the two fighters approach this part of the game, whether they use their grappling and submission skills offensively or defensively.
I think Benavidez is the clear favorite in this fight. The one major thing “Mighty Mouse” has in his favor is his speed. If he uses his footwork and timing he has a better chance of sticking to the outside and avoid the power of Benavidez. If Johnson does pull it out it’s going to be by decision, I don’t see him submitting or knocking Benavidez out. Also, as I mentioned earlier, Johnson readily stands and trades with opponents, relying on his chin and technique. If he does so with Benavidez I think he’s in for a much shorter night. Joseph has just as much skill with his hands, and more skill on the mat. I see Benavidez taking this one and becoming the first flyweight champion in UFC history.